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Qatar to support Lebanese soldiers' salaries with $60m pledge

Lebanese soldiers stand guard at the Lebanon-Syria border on 28 August 2017 [Muhammed Ali Akman/Anadolu Agency]
Lebanese soldiers on 28 August 2017 [Muhammed Ali Akman/Anadolu Agency]

Qatar has pledged $60 million to the Lebanese army, state news agency, QNA, said on Thursday, funding that is earmarked to support the salaries of Lebanese soldiers, two sources briefed on the deal told Reuters.

It is not clear for how long Qatar will support these salaries. Neither the Qatari government nor the Lebanese Armed Forces had any immediate comment, Reuters reports.

Discontent has been brewing in the security forces as Lebanon's currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value against the dollar, driving down most soldiers' wages to less than $100 per month.

"The funding is specifically earmarked to support soldiers' salaries. It will provide support for a period of time with the goal of stabilising the situation," one of the sources said.

To supplement their low salaries, many troops have taken extra jobs and some have quit, raising concerns that the institution – one of few in Lebanon that can rally national pride and create unity across its fractured sectarian communities – could be fraying.

At the start of Lebanon's civil war in the 1970s, fissures along sectarian lines in the army helped fuel a descent into militia rule.

Lebanon's financial crisis has gutted public sector salaries and the amount paid to soldiers is barely enough to afford a basic subscription to a generator service that could offset the 22-hour cuts in the state electricity grid.

The army's canteen stopped offering meat to troops in 2020 to save money. The following year, it began offering sightseeing tours in its helicopters to raise funds.

Qatar's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, met with Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, on Thursday, the Ministry said in a statement.

Qatar has provided the Lebanese military with 70 tons of food each month since last summer, but Thursday's announcement is the first time it has pledged funding in the current crisis.

READ: Lebanon gov't, central bank's 'callous destruction' impoverished people, UN report says

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